Twelve Hong Kong democrats have pleaded guilty to taking part in or inciting others to participate in last year’s banned Tiananmen Massacre vigil, with one defendant Albert Ho saying they were “on the right side of history.”

See also: In full: ‘Speaking truth to power’: Tiananmen Massacre Alliance vice-chair Albert Ho’s mitigation plea

Ho, vice-chairperson of the vigil organiser the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China; former lawmakers “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Cyd Ho, Yeung Sum and Eddie Chu; and Figo Chan, former convenor of the now-disbanded Civil Human Rights Front, were among the 12 defendants appearing in District Court on Thursday before Judge Amanda Woodcock.

District Court. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The others were Andrew Wan, Cheung Man-kwong, Steven Kwok, Chiu Yan-loi, Mak Hoi-wah and Leung Kwok-wah.

Seven of the 12 defendants are either serving jail sentences over other protest-related charges or are remanded in custody awaiting trial in national security cases.

Ahead of the court session, members from the League of Social Democrats rallied outside the courthouse, holding a banner which read “Peaceful assemblies are not a crime, commemorating June 4th is conscience, human rights is bigger than the regime, shame to political prosecution.”

League of Social Democrats rallied outside the District Court on September 9, 2021. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

As some of the defendants stepped into the dock, people in the public gallery waved and shouted their names and “Hang in there!” The democrats waved back, and Yeung bowed towards the gallery.

The court session was paused soon after it began so that defendants and their representatives could go through the amended summary of facts they received from the prosecution, as some lawyers said that they did not have enough time to process the document.

After the hearing resumed, a clerk read out the charges and asked the defendants if they understand and plead guilty.

Photo: Kaiser/United Social Press.

Chan said “I understand” and recited some lyrics from the pro-democracy songs Flower of Freedom and Democracy will Triumph and Return before pleading guilty to both charges.

“However the storm is strong, freedom still blooms,” said Chan. When asked if he agrees to the amended summary of facts, Chan said he understood, “I hope that the voice in the square will not diminish, I agree [to the amended summary].”

The prosecution then played several videos filmed on the day of the vigil, showing the defendants entering Victoria Park, as well as others chanting slogans around the area.

Ho, in a lengthy mitigation submission, said he thought he was “obliged to provide a comprehensive narrative of the history of the June 4 candlelight vigils during the past 30 years.”

“We shall remain positive and hopeful, waiting for change in the times to come, because we believe we are on the right side of history and the development of human history will not stop,” said Ho, as spectators applauded.

The annual vigil at Victoria Park on June 4, 2020, to commemorate victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. Photo: May James/HKFP.

Yeung Sum is still set to represent himself during the proceedings, whilst others are represented by lawyers.

See also: In full: ‘Speaking truth to power’: Tiananmen Massacre Alliance vice-chair Albert Ho’s mitigation plea

A total of 24 people have been charged over the vigil, which was banned by the police last year citing Covid-19 health concerns. Joshua Wong, Lester Shum, Tiffany Yuen, and Janelle Leung pleaded guilty and were sentenced to jail in May.

The trial for those who plan to plead not guilty, including detained pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai, chairperson of the Alliance Lee Cheuk-yan, and vice-chairperson Chow Hang-tung, will begin in November.

The Tiananmen massacre on June 4, 1989 ended months of student-led demonstrations for democracy in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people died when the People’s Liberation Army was deployed to crack down on the protesters in Beijing.

The defendants will be sentenced next Wednesday.

Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.